Last weekend, before having to fly off to UniGames, I headed down to York Butter Factory for yet another hackathon – Melbourne Uni’s CISSA ran their first ever solo hackathon!

It kicked off with a Design Thinking workshop from the Wade Institute. Michael Vitale spoke about how hackathons bring people together to solve real world problems. He emphasised understanding the problem from the perspective of the end user. Part of his workshop included dividing teams in half and getting them to ask questions of each other about the problem they think they are trying to solve. This is a great way to critique ideas within your team before you start hacking. It also allows the problem owner to step back and consider issues they may not have thought about.

Taking on this end user, problem-based approached, CodeBrew decided to run with a humanitarian theme for the hackathon. It’s fantastic to see university groups tackling real world problems in an innovative way. As I’ve said in my previous posts, Australians are generally caring people and having a hackathon based on social problems is definitely not out of place in Melbourne.

CodeBrew had a visit from another great speaker, Bernard Schokmann who encouraged participants to validate their product and think about a sustainable business model.

It was interesting to see a hackathon place so much emphasis on a business model. Crowe Horwath, one of the sponsors for the weekend spoke about how they can help each startup’s finances. The importance of a good business model means your product will be sustainable. It’s great wanting to help people in a humanitarian aspect, but if the money isn’t there to back it up then it won’t be much help. The great thing about working in the social sector is government organisations are usually on board with you. They have a problem your startup is helping to alleviate. Money, therefore, is nearly always available.

Speaking of ideas… there were tonnes of great solutions to crisis situation problems. Some of these included Fragment, a facial recognition software to connect loved ones. We also had the Techfinity team who were helping refugees integrate into their new society and our winners Velp who worked to connect donors to their causes. There were some other cool ideas including TeamRefugee, basically AirBnB for refugees and Bloodseeker, connecting blood donors to areas of need.

Well done to all participants and I hope many of the ideas continue development and let’s see some humanitarian action over the next few months.

On a side note, as part of the prize pack, Velp’s hackers each received tickets to the Future Assembly Technology Expo. If you are interested in all the sweet tech around at the moment, check this Expo out!!!

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